South Africa’s constitution prohibits unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and guarantees equality for gay and lesbian people. Same-sex marriages are legal and transgender people can change their sex description and gender marker in the national birth register. Nevertheless, the LGBTQ community has long been subjected to hate speech, discrimination, and grotesque violence in the country.
Moreover, many South Africans still perceive LGBTQ individuals as inherently immoral and “un-African”, and thus pay little attention to the abuse they endure on a daily basis in the country. It is time for South Africa to respond decisively to this growing problem by adopting preventive measures against homophobic hate speech and hate crimes.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance of South Africa has urged the parliament to pass a proposed hate crimes law. The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill 2018 aims to outlaw hate crimes and hate speech on grounds of race, gender identity and sexual orientation, among others. The bill’s ratification has been delayed due to concerns that it may inhibit freedom of speech.
In South Africa, for instance, the monthly earnings of gender nonconforming, gay or bisexual men are, on average, 30 percent lower than that of gender conforming heterosexual men. Worse still, LGBTQ people also suffer from higher rates of suicide, rape and violence.